Subsection 1: Soulcentric Developmental Wheel

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Both Plotkin and Anodea recommend ways to heal or address imbalances, deficiencies, and excesses in different dimensions of human development. The techniques that they propose are unique but with areas of overlap. When used simultaneously, they provide a wide range of prescriptive methods for treating trauma. In the case of Soulcraft, having identified events which could propel one toward a break with or emergence from formerly limiting views and behaviors (trauma being one such event), Plotkin goes on to explain a model of human development into which trauma could be located, namely the Soulcentric Developmental Wheel (SDW, explained below). Locating trauma within this model allows one to 1) identify a point or points within an individual’s development where trauma may have occurred and 2) recommend techniques to heal trauma in that area and reactivate full expression of the area with trauma-arrested development.

            When we last left off with Plotkin’s work, we had discussed the phase of severance, which can be triggered by trauma. Having described this phase of soul-embodiment, in which one parted ways with a focus or “center of gravity” (to use Plotkin’s words) related to surface, materialistic concerns such as social status, sexual gratification, and financial achievement (SDW stage three; diagram below), the next stage in the journey of soul embodiment offers methods to deepen into the underworld as a new center of gravity (SDW stage 4). This is where one can draw on the sacred wound mentioned earlier as a resource that gives access to the innate unfolding. Once one has become familiar with one’s innate unfolding by means of these techniques, one’s center of gravity shifts from the underworld to delivering what has been understood via this journey as a gift back to the community. To clarify this process, Plotkin has identified eight stages of human development, and put them into the following model:

Figure 4. Soulcentric Developmental Wheel (SDW)[1]


In this model “the passage between any two life stages amounts to a psychospiritual trauma, a death-rebirth;”[2] yet the passage from stage three through stage four is particularly critical, as this is where the sacred wound trauma, if understood via the SDW, can potentially be alchemized, or, if left untreated, can induce further trauma. If transformed, it becomes a gift from a integrated adult given back to the community, as mentioned above. If not, trauma can continue to deepen and the ravine between one and one’s innate unfolding only grows.

            The first three of the SDW stages correspond to what was described earlier as ego growth, experienced as the middleworld. Stage one occurs in early childhood, wherein our ego is developed “through the preservation of our original innocence.”[3] Stage two, the Garden, occurs in middle childhood, and involves wonder at nature and human culture. This stage continues into puberty. Stage three, the Oasis, occurs in early adolescence. One learns to “balance authenticity with social acceptance, allowing us to be in the world with integrity.”[4]

            Stage four, the Cocoon, happens as the adolescent identity transitions into a curiosity to “explore the mysteries of psyche and nature.”[5] This is where the phase of Severance, Cultivation of Pathways to Soul Encounter and Returning to one’s community after having turned away from conventional society to “seek our unique gift of soul to bring to our community”[6] occur. One’s center of gravity or focus shifts away from social status, sexual gratification and so on. Soul initiation in the underworld results in committing “ourselves to living that found gift, and our primary life-orientation shifts from social positioning to soul embodiment.”[7]

            The Wellspring, stage five, in early adulthood, involves learning to share one’s unique gift through apprenticeship. The latter portion of adulthood, stage six, the Wild Orchard, is a further refinement of this soul work, in which we “embody our soul in ever more creative, abundant, and generative ways—through forms of our own creation.”[8] The elder in the grove in stage seven, marks a transition from “embodiment of our particular gift to caring for the soul of the more than human community.”[9] The final stage as an advanced elder is characterized by the relinquishment of ego ambition and an expansive focus on “the evolving universe itself.”[10]

[1] For a larger-format version of this diagram that you can download and print, please visit

[2] Bill Plotkin, Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, First ed. (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2007), 64.

[3] Ibid., 62.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.